Guru Nanak at Puri

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Five hundred years ago, two great luminaries appeared on the horizon of India, one on the east and the other in the west. They were Chaitanya and Nanak. Nanak was the founder of the Sikh religion. In 1506 Nanak visited seven countries in India. He lived for 71 years and within his life time he is believed to have spent 25 years in travelling all over India from Himalaya to the Cape Comorein. He also visited Macca and Madina, Turkey and China. It has been estimated that he had walked about 50,000 miles on his foot with wooden sandals. He also converted Raja Seonath, the king of Cylon to his own religion. Before proceeding towards cylon he visited Orissa.

Tradition says that after walking a long distance, he rested on the bank of river Mahanadi at 'Kaliaboda'. Many people went to Nanak to pay their homage. This made Chaitanya Bharati envious who beat Nanak with a twig of Sahada tree. But at the very sight of Nanak the twig automatically dropped out of his hand and he implored his mercy. Nanak took the Sahada twig for brushing his teeth and planted the same on the spot. In course of time it grew into a beautiful tree which stood there for years. This is a sacred place of the Sikhs.

As Nanak brushed his teeth here (danta) it is called 'Danton Saheeb'. But this legend has no historical basis. As regards the name 'Kaliaboda' it can be stated that one Kalia Pandit took the care of the place and so it has been named as 'Kaliaboda'. Again it can be stated in different connection. Kaliabedi was the father of Nanak and he was a Hindu. It was therefore possible that in order to show respect to the father of Nanak the place might have been named as such. There is no evidence to corroborate the above presumption. It is a subject for future research. Kaliaboda, nevertheless is an important place of piligrimage for the Sikhs. There is also clear evidence in Bhadrak District that Nanak came to Orissa. In Bhadrak there is a village called 'Sangat' which means mass prayer of Sikhs and Langar means community dining. In this village Nanak stayed and held mass prayer. There is a recorded plot here called 'Nanak Diha'. Most probably Nanak stayed in this village and held his mass prayer. It will be relevant to mention here that in Sangat village poet Bansi Ballabh Goswami was born in the 18th century and composed poetry and drama in Oriya, Bengali, Hindi and Persian. In some of his poems he has given some indications regarding the village Sangat, Nanak and Mahadev and Deity of the village. In 1930, Raj Ballabh Mohantyin his 'Bhadra Kali Janana' composed in Oriya has referred to village 'Sangat' and 'Nanak'. Besides that a few manuscripts containing some verses from the famous Japji of Guru Nanak were also discovered at Sangat in Bhadrak.

Legend shows that Nanak arrived at Puri with his disciple 'Mardana'. Nanak reached Puri beach in the evening near the present Swargadwar. He sat down in meditation. Mardana was hungry but as he was a Muslim he was not allowed to enter into the Jagannath temple for the Mahaprasad. So the disciple of Nanak blamed Nanak for selecting such a place where they had to face starvation. Suddenly at that time somebody appeared and offered food and drink carrying in utensils of gold. In the early hours of morning however there was a commotion in Jagannath temple that the gold utensils of the Lord were missing. The news was given to Raja. Nanak appeared to Raja in his dream that night. So when Raja knew regarding the occurence of theft, he gave a broad smile and marched towards sea-beach in a procession to welcome the saint. Raja found that the saint was in meditation and the gold utensils were lying close by. Then the king and his party gave a hearty reception to the saint who had come to Puri to pay his homage to the Lord Jagannath. Nanak was invited to pay his visit to the temple at the time of Arati in the evening. During the day as water was required he advised the disciples to dig a hole in the sandy surface of sea-beach and to their surprise sweet water came out.

A well was constructed around this hole. Near that well a Gurudwar called Bauli Saheb came into existence. This is now called'Baulimath'. It is said that it was constructed by Nanak. This is a very sacred place for the Sikhs. One day while Raja and all other devotees were assembled to pay homage to Lord Jagannath, Nanak explained the real meaning of God. He told the crowd that God is present everywhere and does not belong to any individual or community. By saying so he showed both his palms on which Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra had rested.

The Gurugrantha Sahib, the sacred religious book of the Sikhs is one of the most sacred books in the world. It consists of 5894 hymns out of which 976 hymns were composed by Nanak. In 1604 it was compiled by the 5th Guru Arjun Dev. The great lyric poet Jayadev of Orissa finds a place of eminence for his hymns in the 'Grantha Sahib' of Orissa. It is not known how the Punjabi language was influenced by the songs of Jayadev. I would like to quote in a few lines of Nanak which are quoted in the Journal of the University of Bombay, Vol.vi.pp.29-130. Guna gaba Ravidasu Bhagatu Jayadeva Trilochana Adi Gurugrantha Sahibji From the bhajanas of Nanak it is clear that he was highly impressed with the lyrical songs of 'Jayadev'. At that time the songs of Jayadev were regularly recited in the temple of Lord Jagannath at Puri. It also appears that Chaitanya and Guru Nanak both met at Puri and spent some time there. Of course we do not have any direct evidence from contemporary literature to substantiate but we find the following in Chaitanya Bhagbat of Iswar Das written in Oriya in 17th Century.Orissa Review July - 2003 Srinibasaye Viswambhara, Kirtan madyare vihar, Nanak Saranga ye dui, Rupa Sanatana duibhai, Jagai Madhai ekatra, Kirtan Karanti Nritya,

It means that Srinibasa and Viswambhara were found in the Kirtan. Both 'Nanak' and 'Saranga' Rupa Sanatan brothers and 'Jagai' 'Madhai' were also there in Kirtan. Nanak's aim in life was to bring religious and social harmony in India. He based his principles of religion on one issue that 'God' is one for all the religions of the different nations, communities, castes and creeds in the world. By this principle he triedto bring unity and harmony among the different religions. His creation of the Sikh community imbibed with a strong sense of nationalism is a great asset of India.

==GURU NANAK’ MEMORIAL AT PURI --- A Historical Need For The ==Sikhs.

Guru Nanak, the voice of compassion and universal love, set out from Punjab in 1497 A.D, to convey the message of One God and universal brotherhood of humanity in all directions. The long journeys he undertook for this purpose, the places he visited ,and important people of all the religions he met, are mind boggling. Wherever he went, he dazzled the minds of the people, exhorted them to shed spiritual slavery, and invariably left a permanent imprint on their minds.

Guru Nanak undertook four Udasis i.e. long journeys, in four different directions. The first one was of longest duration and the destination was Jagan Nath Puri. This destination was carefully chosen. Puri was one of the four Dhams established by Shankracharya in 7th century, and later on it had become the prominent centre of Vampanthis. During the times of Guru Nanak, this philosophy of salvation had degenerated into the pleasures of flesh. Guru Nanak after touring the ‘Kamrup Desh’, which comprised the areas of Assam, Bengal and Orissa, reached Jagan Nath Puri in June, 1510 A.D. What happened there during Guru Jee’s visit is recorded in detail in every Janam Sakhi (biography of the Guru). Guruji stayed there for about one and half month, recited two important shabads(Aarti) like, “Gagan Mein Thal........ Bhav Khandana Teri Aarti Hoai.” which are part of Guru Granth Sahib ,and are recited by the Sikhs everywhere during Akhand Path. The historical context in which those shabads were recited is very important to project the philosophy of Guru Nanak.

Bhagat Jaidev’s hymns, which he composed in his well known composition Gita Govinda at Puri, are also incorporated in the Guru Granth Sahib. Puri, therefore, has a place of pride in the mind of the Sikhs.

Puri acquired further importance in Sikh history as it contributed to Sikh history till the time of Guru Gobind Singh. After religious persecution of the Sikhs by Aurangzeb and other Mughal Emperors, it lost connection with the Sikhs as the Sikhs had to leave their religious places and had to go into hiding. Since then, the place has remained ignored and neglected by the Sikhs till today. In order to project the importance of Puri for the Sikhs, it is imperative to see its long historical connection with the Sikh history and the Sikhs. It is from this angle, that I have tried to trace the historical connection from the times of Guru Nanak till today.

After Guru Nanak, no Sikh Guru except Guru Tegh Bahadur undertook long journeys outside Punjab. The second Sikh Guru, Guru Angad Dev Jee, tried to consolidate Guru Nanak’s Bani and to propagate the same. For that purpose, Janam Sakhis of Guru Nanak’s life and his visit to various places were got written in details. In the Janam Sakhi of Bhai Bala, Guru Nanak’s visit to Jagan Nath Puri is mentioned in great detail. Two places, Mangu Math and Bauli Math also find mention in the Janam Sakhi as being intimately connected with Guru Nanak’s visit to Puri. The third Guru, Guru Amar Dass, took further steps for propagation of Guru Nanak’s new creed and appointed missionaries for that purpose in different parts of the country. Bhai Mohan was the first missionary appointed for the area of Bengal and Orissa in about 1562 AD. The missionary work took a further fillip, when Baba Shri Chand accepted the supremacy of his father’s mission and his new creed, and undertook its propagation during the time of 4th and 5th Gurus. Baba Shri Chand, whose Udasi followers are now-a-days managing Bauli Math and Mangu Math in Puri, had become a Sanyasi and did not marry. During the last years of his life, he adopted Baba Gurditta, the eldest son of Guru Hargobind, the sixth Guru of the Sikhs, and entrusted to him the missionary work of Sikhism in various parts of India. Baba Gurditta under the guidance of Guru Hargobind opened many new missionary centres at far flung places.

The chief missionary appointed for Jagan Nath Puri was one Almast, who had done impressive missionary work in the areas of the present Uttar Pradesh during the life time of Baba Shri Chand. It is said that it was Almast who got constructed Dharamsalas at the places historically connected with Guru Nanak’s visit, including the buildings at Bauli Math and Mangu Math at Puri Almast with his extensive religious knowledge and deep spirituality won respect for Sikhism in the area of Jagan Nath Puri. It is because of Almast’s impressive work that Guru Tegh Bahadur chose to visit the place in 1670 AD, during his visit to Assam, Bengal and other areas. Guru Tegh Bahadur stayed at Bauli Math, which was said to be dug by Guru Nanak, for about fortnight and got the same repaired. Guru Tegh Bahadur opened a free kitchen i.e., Langar for the pilgrims of all faiths and further explained to the people the principles of Guru Nanak’s mission and philosophy. The ordinary people as well as the learned Pandits were impressed by Guruji’s way of life and exposition of the philosophy of Sikhism. The people in the area had great respect for Guru Nanak and other Sikh Gurus, and the same was further deepened. It is because of that respect that the people use to come to meet the living Gurus.

Bhai Himmat Singh of Jagan Nath Puri, in the same traditions, came and offered his head to Guru Gobind Singh at Anandpur Sahib in 1699 AD, at the time of creation of Khalsa Panth as one of the Panj Piaras. The thread of historical connection from Guru Nanak’s first visit to the creation of Khalsa Panth is continuous in one way or the other. But, after this great historical event, the connection between Puri and the Sikhs was snapped for a very long period. The Government of Orissa should help to raise this memorial in memory of Bhai Himmat Singh also.

It was only in 1838 AD, when Maharaja Ranjit Singh during his last illness offered to donate the famous Kohinoor diamond to the Temple of Jagan Nath at the suggestion of his astrologer, that the place finds mention in the Sikh history again. The royal custodian Beli Ram refused to acced to the royal wish of Maharaja Ranjit Singh ,and Kohinoor Diamond could not find its way to the temple of Jagan Nath Puri. Beli Ram and his family suffered a tragic death and, the Sikhs lost their kingdom in a short time. The British, as a matter of policy did not encourage the missionary work of any Indian religion. Jagan Nath Puri also lost connection with the Sikhs as the places connected with Guru Nanak and Guru Tegh Bahadur’s visit were not properly kept. The local Udasi Sadhus totally ignored all the traditions of Sikhism and its practices at the places connected with Sikh history.

These days, the general population of the city do not know anything about Guru Nanak’s visit to Jagan Nath Puri, and particularly about the historical places connected with Guru Nanak’s name. The Udasi Sadhus managing these places also do not know much about the purpose of Guru Nanak’s visit, but Guru Granth Sahib is ceremonially placed there in the corner of these two Maths.

Sikhs after independence have made some unsuccessful attempts to acquire those places for the purpose of building Gurudwaras, but due to political complications, the attempts have failed due to one reason or the other. The Sikhs wanted to build Gurdwara only at the place of Bauli Math. But the Udasi people did not agree to hand over the possession of the place for that purpose. Therefore, there is no trace of memory of Guru Nanak’s historical visit to Puri. It is a matter of surprise to the people, and matter of shame for the Sikhs.

In 1993, Guru Nanak Universal Brotherhood Society had taken initiative to construct Guru Nanak’s Memorial at the sea shore of Jagan Nath Puri to commemorate Guru Nanak’s great historical visit to Puri, and to project his philosophy at a place where other religions of India stand represented in one form or the other. Kabir and Chaitanaya who visited the place have impressive Maths constructed by their followers, but Guru Nanak and his philosophy is unrepresented at such a great historical place. It is a major challenge to see Guru Nanak’s philosophy and Sikhism represented among the other major religions of India. Otherwise, the people would say, as a Minister of Orissa said in 1993, that ”the Sikhs construct Gurudwaras only at places where they expect some monetary gains.” This is an unfair charge against them because it is against the history of the Sikhs. The people know that the Sikhs have not allowed to go into oblivion any place connected with the name of their Gurus so far. Why is Puri, such an important religious place, the only exception? The Sikhs have to give an answer now ---in the form of an impressive Memorial to commemorate Guru Nanak’s great historical visit to this place. It was because of old love that the Sikhs felt deeply pained to see the recent cyclonic tragedy of vast devastation in Orissa and they rose to help whole heartedly the people of Orissa in their times of misfortune.

The people of Orissa should help the Sikhs to cement their bonds of love with Puri by co-operating in raising this memorial to commemorate Guru Nanak’s first great historical visit to Orissa, and particularly to Puri. Since 1995, our Society has made serious efforts to start the construction of the memorial, but the same has got delayed due to one reason or the orther. The last reason given that Guru Nanak’s memorial would creat problems of security, is not understandable at all. Therefore, the Government of Orissa should take immediate steps to hand over the possession of land already allotted to the society, at least at the end of the year long celebrations of Khalsa, started in April, 1999. That would be real celebration of India’s Secularism in the begining of 21st century.

April 13, 2000.
Dr. M.S. Rahi
General Secretary
Guru Nanak Universal Brotherhood Society

Copy to:

1. The Chief Minister, Orissa.

2. The Home Minister, Orissa.

3. The Revenue Minister, Orissa.

4. The Collector, Puri, Orissa.


 _________________________________________________________________________________________



15.04.2000


To The Collector Puri, Orissa.

Subject: Lease of Government land in favour of the Society for construction of a Memorial of Guru Nanak at Puri.
Sir,

With reference to your letter No. 1003/Rev., dated 23.03.2000, I am appearing before you in order to explain the case of the Society. The historical background of the desire of the followers of Guru Nanak to build memorial at Puri is explained in the paper “GURU NANAK’S MEMORIAL AT PURI - A Historical need for The Sikhs.” Why this project was undertaken by the Society is also explained in this paper. (Copy of the paper is attached herewith).

The present initiative to raise this memorial took place in October, 1993 when two members of the Society were visiting Puri for a different purpose. Since then correspondence between the Society and the Orissa Government has ensued. The first letter was written to Smt. Gian Patnaik. W/o then Hon’ble Chief Minister, Late Shri Biju Patnaik on 4th Aug., 1994, and afterwards Shri Bhupinder Singh, Minister of Tourism and Culture in the previous Government took up the matter. Then the land was allotted to the Society adjoining Sat Sang and Holiday Home of Southern Railway (near BNR Hotel) in 1997 as is evident from many letter written to the Society by the Hon’ble Minister.

The Society throughout was insisting for handing over the possession of the allotted land. But unfortunately, the handing over of possession of the land was delayed for the reasons not known to the Society, but the whole correspondence as maintained in the office of the Society , makes a very depressing reading.

The letter memo No. 4541, dated 26.10.1999 received from this office, surprised and distressed most the members of the Society. The Society did not get the reasons for droping the alienation case No. 35/97 inspite of request for the same through letter dated 1.11.1999. The Society is ready to explain any position asked by the Government authorities.

It is hoped that no negative thought should be intertained regarding the raising of Guru Nanak’s Memorial at Puri and possession of the land should be delivered at the earliest, so that the construction could be started though already much delayed.

Yours faithfully,
(M. S. RAHI)
General Secretary,

GURU NANAK’S MEMORIAL AT JAGAN NATH PURI -- A CHALLENGE TO THE SIKHS.

Guru Nanak, the voice of compassion and universal love, set out from Sultanpur Lodhi in 1497, after long meditation and reflection of 14 years, 9 months and 7 days, resulting into enlightenment; to convey the message of One God and universal brotherhood in all directions, wherever he could go in those days of difficult and hazardous communications. The long journeys, he undertook for this purpose and the places he visited and important people of all the regions he met, are mind boggling. Wherever, he went, he dazzled the minds of the people, exhorted them to shed spiritual slavery and, invariably left a permanent imprint on their minds. He undertook four Udasis i.e. long journeys in four different directions, the first one was of longest duration and the destination of the same was Jagan Nath Puri. This destination was carefully chosen as Puri was one of the four Dhams established by Shankracharya in 7th century and, during the course of time, Puri Dham had become the prominent centre of Vampanthis. During the times of Guru Nanak this philosophy of salvation, had degenerated into pleasures of flesh. Guru Nanak after touring the ‘Kamrup Desh’ which consisted of the areas of Assam, Bengal and Orrisa, reached Jagan Nath Puri in 1510 A.D. What hapened there during Guru Jee’s visit is recorded in detail in every Janam Sakhi. Guru Jee stayed there for about one and half months, recited two important shabads like, “Gagan Mein Thal.........” which are part of Guru Granth Sahib. In the historical context in which those shabads were recited is very important to project the philosophy of Guru Nanak. Puri acquired further importance in Sikh history, as it contributed to Sikh history till the time of Guru Gobind Singh and, after religious oppression of Aurangzeb, it lost connection with the Sikhs and, the place has remained ignored by the Sikhs till today. In order to give it the proper place of important, it is imperative to see its long historical connection with the Sikh history and the Sikhs. It is from this angle, that I have tried to trace the historical connection from the times of Guru Nanak till today.

After Guru Nanak, no Sikh Guru except Guru Tegh Bahadur took long journeys outside Punjab. The second Sikh Guru Guru Angad Dev Jee tried to consolidate Guru Nanak’s Bani and to propagate the same. For that purpose, Janam Sakhis of Guru Nanak’s life and his visit to various places were got written in details, as are said to be given by Bhai Bala. In this Janam Sakhi, Guru Nanak’s visit to Jagan Nath Puri is mentioned in great detail and two places, Mangu Math and Bauli Math are there connected with Guru Nanak’s name as mentioned in the Janam Sakhi. The third Guru Amar Dass took further steps for propagation of Guru Nanak’s new creed and appointed missionaries for that purpose in different parts of the country. Bhai Mohan was the first missionary appointed for the area of Bengal, and Orrisa. The missionary work took a further fillip, when Baba Shree Chand accepted the supremacy of his father’s mission and his new creed and, undertook its propagation during the time of 4th and 5th Guru. Baba Shree Chand had become a Sanyasi and did not marry and, during the last years of his life adopted Baba Gurditta, the eldest son of Guru Hargobind and entrusted to him the missionary work of Sikhism in various parts of India. Baba Gurditta under the guidance of Guru Hargobind opened many new missionary centres at far flung places and; the chief missionary appointed for Jagan Nath Puri was one Almast, who had done impressive missionary work in the areas of the present Uttar Pradesh during the life time of Baba Shree Chand. It is said, this was Almast who got constructed Dharamsalas at the places, historically connected with Guru Nanak’s visit. Almast with his extensive religious knowledge and deep spirituality, won respect for Sikhism in the area of Jagan Nath Puri. It is because of Almast’s impressive work that Guru Tegh Bahadur chose to visit the place in 1670 A.D., during his visit to Assam, Bengal and other areas. Guru Tegh Bahadur stayed at Bauli Math for about fortnight and got the same repaired, which was said to be dug by Guru Nanak. Guru Tegh Bahadur opened a free kitchen i.e., Langer for the pilgrims of all faiths and, further explained to the people the principles of Guru Nanak’s mission and philosophy. The ordinary people as well as learned Pandits were impressed by Guru Jee’s way of life and exposition of the philosophy of Sikhism. The people in the area had great respect for Guru Nanak and other Sikh Gurus, and the same was further deepened. It is because of that respect that the people use to come to meet the living Gurus and, Bhai Himmat Singh of Jagan Nath Puri, in the same traditions came and, offered his head to Guru Gobind Singh at Anandpur Sahib in 1699 A.D., at the time of inception of Khalsa Panth as one of the Panj Piaras. The thread of historical connection from Guru Nanak’s first visit to the inception of Khalsa Panth is continuous in one way or the other. But, after this great historical event, the connection between Puri and the Sikhs was snapped and much is not known after this period. It was only in 1838 A.D., when Maharaja Ranjit Singh during his last illness offered to donate the famous Kohinoor diamond to the Temple of Jagan Nath at the suggestion of his astrologer and, the place finds mention in the Sikh history. The royal custodian Beli Ram refused to acceded to the royal wishes of Maharaja Ranjit Singh and Kohinoor Diamond could not find its way to the temple of Jagan Nath Puri. Beli Ram and his family suffered a tragic death and, the Sikhs lost their kingdom in a short time. The British, as a matter of policy did not encourage the missionary work of Sikhism. Jagan Nath Puri also lost connection with the Sikhs as the places connected with Guru Nanak and Guru Tegh Bahadur’s visit were not properly kept and the local Udasi Sadhus became selfish and converted those places mainly into Mandirs, ignoring all the traditions of Sikhism and the Gurudwaras. These days, the general population of the city do not know anything about Guru Nanak’s visit to Jagan Nath Puri and particular about the historical places connected with Guru Nanak’s name. The Udasi Sadhus managing the places also do not know much about the purpose of Guru Nanak’s visit, but in the corner of these two Mandirs, Guru Granth Sahib is placed there.

Sikhs after independence have made some unsuccessful attempts to acquire those places for the purpose of building Gurudwaras, but due to political complications, the attempts have failed due to one reason or the other. Now, Guru Nanak Universal Brotherhood Society had taken initiative in another form to construct Guru Nanak’s Memorial at sea-shore of Jagan Nath Puri to commemorate Guru Nanak’s great historical visit to Puri and to project his philosophy at a place, where other religions of India stand represented in one form or the other. Kabir and Chaitanaya who visited the place have impressive Maths constructed by their followers, but Guru Nanak and his philosophy is un-represented at such a great historical place. It is a major challenge to see Guru Nanak’s philosophy and Sikhism represented among the other major religions of India, otherwise, the people would say, as a Minister of Orissa said in 1993,”that the Sikhs construct Gurudwaras at places where they expect some monetary gains.” This is an unbecoming charge against them because it is against the history of the Sikhs. The people know that the Sikhs have not allowed so far to go into oblivion any place connected with the name of their Gurus. But, why Puri, such an important religious place is the only exception? The Sikhs have to give an answer, now in the form of an impressive Memorial to commemorate Guru Nanak’s great historical visit to this place. With the grace of the Guru, the happy news is: The Government of Orissa has alloted land to our Society and the Hon’ble Minister, Shri Bhupinder Singh, Minister of Tourism and Culture, has informed us vide his letter dated 27.9.1996. The foundation stone is jto be laid on this coming Guru Nanak’s Birthday on 25th Novembr, 1996 and, thereafter, we need the co-operation of the Sikh Sangat to complete this historical project.

References

  1. Journal of the University of Bombay Vol.VI,pp.129-130.
  2. Saint Nanak - Aniruddha Dash, 1971,Bhubaneswar.
  3. Gopal Singh, Sri Gurugrantha Sahib Vol.I.